Tiger Woods, Nike split after 27 years, $660 million worth of contracts

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Tiger Woods’ nearly three-decade partnership with Nike Inc., which generated about $660 million for the golf legend, has come to an end.

“Over 27 years ago, I was fortunate to start a partnership with one of the most iconic brands in the world,” Woods said in a statement posted Monday on X, formerly Twitter

Woods, now 48, signed a five-year, $40 million deal with Nike as a young phenom in 1996. A five-year, $100 million contract followed in 2001, and his next pact with the athletic-goods giant was worth $320 million over eight years. He signed his most recent deal with Nike, worth $200 million over 10 years, in 2013.Play Video

As for what’s next for Woods, he said, “People will ask if there is another chapter. Yes, there will certainly be another chapter. See you in LA!” The Genesis Invitational tournament, which Woods hosts, starts Feb. 15 near Los Angeles.

In a statement via text message, Nike lauded Woods’ impact on golf and the overall sports world. “We are grateful to have been a part of it,” the company said. “We wish him the best in the future.”

The multimillion-dollar partnership that surged golf to new heights of popularity highlights Nike’s deep history of building brands out of celebrities that go beyond mere endorsements. The speculation about where Woods goes next — possibly jumping to another brand where he can take an equity stake — also spotlights the changing nature of brand deals, with celebrities seeking a greater financial share in the businesses they promote.

Equity Stakes

Indeed, several younger athletes recently have chosen to take equity stakes rather than traditional endorsement contracts. In sports beverages, San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu and even singer Carrie Underwood all have equity stakes in the Coca-Cola Co.-owned Bodyarmor. NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tennis player Naomi Osaka and NBA players Anthony Davis, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook all have equity stakes with Hyperice, a performance-recovery tech company.

As it relates to golf, the PGA Tour has said golfers who remained loyal to the tour during its pending merger with Saudi-backed upstart LIV Golf would get equity stakes in the new for-profit company, should the merger be completed. Golfers who left for LIV Golf wouldn’t receive that offer.

Sports stars of the new generation are seeking equity because they’re “making decisions around what they do with their capital and their personal brand to make sure it’s consistent with how they want to be perceived,” Mark Patricof said in a phone interview in November. Patricof is the founder of Patricof Co., an athlete investment and advisory platform.

Lifetime Deals

Woods’ relationship with Nike came before those of NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant, who each have lifetime deals with the company — unlike Woods. James signed his lifetime pact in 2015, and Durant in April 2023.

In another high-profile Nike divorce, Swiss tennis star Roger Federer left the sportswear giant in 2018 for a 10-year, $300 million deal with Uniqlo, in part because he wanted a contract that would outlast his playing career. The following year, Federer inked a deal with Swiss athletic-shoe maker On Holding AG that came with a 3% equity stake — an increasing focus for athletes who want more than just endorsement fees.

Woods’ next step remains unclear. He was reported to be in talks with On, but a spokeswoman for the brand said Monday, “We are aware of the rumors but we don’t currently have any plans to be a partner with Tiger Woods.”

Williams Trading analyst Sam Poser said in December that Nike could be planning to “license out its entire golf business.” Nike once produced golf clubs, balls and bags but left the equipment business in 2016. If Nike were to leave the sport of golf altogether, Poser would expect “the changes to do long-term damage to the brand.” Nike’s endorsement deals with Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka and Michelle Wie West could be in limbo in such a scenario.

Nike maintains that it’s still committed to golf apparel. Poser declined to comment Monday on the Woods news.

Woods’ son, Charlie, in December sported an outfit from Greyson Clothiers, the brand worn by Justin Thomas. Woods’ heir doesn’t appear on the company’s list of ambassadors, and Greyson didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Nike shares rose 1.6% in New York trading. The stock fell 7.2% in 2023, trailing the 41% gain of the S&P 500 consumer-discretionary index.

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